Knox to allow pot parlors and dispensaries

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Marijuana derivative cannabidiol (CBD) has been legal and sold at places like Your CBD Store in Guilderland for some time.

KNOX — The Knox Town Board has decided not to opt out of New York State’s marijuana law. That means pot shops and parlors can come to town.

The board’s decision on Dec. 21 may have had something to do with the fact that the outgoing supervisor, Vasilios Lefkaditis, did not broach the discussion until the last minute, despite the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act — which grants municipalities the authority to bar pot facilities — being enacted in the spring. 

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise on Nov. 30 that he was not opposed to allowing those facilities in Knox. A little over a week later, on Dec. 10, he emailed The Enterprise to express his surprise at the number of people who had since reached out to him about the town’s intent.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Lefkaditis said that, although the state law has been in effect since March 31, “This was only dropped on my desk last week.”

After outlining the situation and the board’s options, he asked if any board member had any desire to opt out. Board members Karl Pritchard and June Springer both shook their heads, while member Dennis Cyr said he hadn’t had enough time to do the necessary research.

Board member Ken Saddlemire told The Enterprise after the meeting that he was “OK with the decision.”

Cyr could not immediately be reached for comment.

Once each board member summarily gave his or her opinion, Lefkaditis instructed the clerk to “let the minutes reflect that the board discussed it, and they have no interest in opting out of [the law].”

No member of the public spoke either way about the law during this or any other meeting’s public-comment session, and there were no obvious reactions after the board moved on from the matter. 

Under Lefkaditis’s leadership, the town has been geared toward promoting business growth. One of the defining victories of his tenure was the passage of an 80-acre multi-use recreational district late last year, at the junction of routes 156 and 157. The district allows a greater breadth of business operations than had been allowed previously, though restricts facilities with relatively intensive uses. 

Supervisor-elect Russell Pokorny told The Enterprise this week that he believes any new marijuana businesses could be located in the town’s business district, which is in the hamlet, along Route 156, or in one of the town’s two mixed-use areas — one where the old Foxenkill restaurant used to be and the new one at the junction of routes 156 and 157.
Pokorny said that, upon his reading of the town’s zoning ordinance, a marijuana dispensary and/or consumption site would fall under the category of “retail business or service not specifically mentioned herein,” which can only be approved via special-use permit in the business and mixed-use districts.

How the pot issue played out in Knox is in stark contrast with the way it unfolded in nearby Westerlo, where sentiment among the board from the get-go was that opting out was the wise move, particularly since towns have the chance to opt back in at a later date.

Westerlo had drafted a resolution to opt out and advertised a public hearing, then heard from several residents, virtually all of whom agreed with the board that the town should opt out.

Reasons ranged from the risk involved in committing to allowing a business that so little is known about, to the general character of the town and the health of its residents. Any disagreement among those present generally related to the last two points, while there seemed to be a consensus around the first. 

Rensselaerville also opted out of allowing dispensaries and consumption establishments. 

Berne, like Knox, has waited until the last minute to discuss the issue. The town board there decided to take no action at its Dec. 22 meeting.

Berne Supervisor Sean Lyons, who is leaving office at the end of the year after not seeking re-election, told The Enterprise last month that he was not against allowing pot facilities in the town, and incorrectly said that opting out would limit tobacco-based vape sales at other local businesses. He also incorrectly said that the town would be able to opt out in 2022 if needed. 

Office of Cannabis Management Spokesman Freeman Klopott said, of the deadline, “The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act sets the opt-out deadline for December 31, 2021, or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. Towns that opt-out can always opt back in after the deadline.”  

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